27 November 2018
SOFO 2018 Provides Strengthened Evidence on Role of Forests in Achieving SDGs
Photo by Luis Del Río Camacho
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The ‘State of the World’s Forests’ report analyzes the contributions of forests and trees to 28 targets relating to ten SDGs.

The report presents eight case studies that illustrate how countries have integrated forests and landscape approaches linking multiple SDGs into wider sustainable development programmes.

November 2018: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) has released its biennial report on the state of the world’s forests (SOFO), which examines ways to strengthen the contributions of forests and trees to sustainable development in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2018 report titled, ‘The State of the World’s Forests: Forest Pathways to Sustainable Development,’ quantifies the contributions of forests to the SDGs, and provides recommendations for strengthening forest pathways in support of sustainable development.

SOFO 2018 analyzes the contributions of forests and trees to 28 targets relating to ten SDGs. This analysis provides greater evidence on the critical role of forests for livelihoods, proof of the significance of forests and trees for water quality, energy needs and sustainable, healthy cities, and confirmation of the role of healthy, productive forests to sustainable agriculture. As an illustration, forests act as a source of food, fuel and medicine for over one billion people, hold more than three-quarters of the world’s biodiversity, and help conserve carbon and protect soils and water. The report notes that forests absorb the equivalent of roughly two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually, and effective forest management can strengthen adaptive capacities and resilience to natural hazards and disasters, underscoring the potential of integrating forest measures into national disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategies. The report stresses that evidence on such roles played by forests is critical to achieving recognition of the true value of forests in the 2030 Agenda.

In addition, forest products and services contribute to socioeconomic development, and support the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people. According to the report, about 40 percent of rural people in extreme poverty live in forest and savannah areas. Some studies cited in the report suggest that forests and trees may provide up to 20 percent of income for rural households in developing countries, including through meeting their subsistence needs. The report emphasizes that income from forests is proportionately more important for livelihoods of the poorest households, with non-wood forest products (NWFPs) providing food, nutritional diversity and income for an estimated one in five people around the world, often people in vulnerable situations.

Agriculture, food security and forestry cannot be treated in isolation.

SOFO 2018 identifies a number of key challenges facing the world’s forests, stressing that finding a way to increase agricultural production and improve food security without reducing forest areas “is one of the great challenges of our times.” The report argues that agriculture, food security and forestry cannot be treated in isolation, and calls for policy coherence across sectoral ministries to integrate strategies and balance tradeoffs and ultimately end poverty and hunger. Another key challenge highlighted throughout the report is a lack of reliable information about the informal forest sector.

The report presents eight case studies that illustrate how countries have integrated forests and landscape approaches linking multiple SDGs into wider sustainable development programmes. In Bolivia, a key policy has supported land redistribution, including forests, to indigenous people, including to address SDG target 1.2 on improved access to land, particularly for the poor. Forest restoration in the Republic of Korea addressed erosion and flooding to protect agricultural land and food production as well as the recreational, cultural and climate values of forests.

Some lessons learned across the case studies relate to: the importance and potential of biomass energy from trees in contributing to SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) and SDG 13 (climate action); the need for increased data collection and management systems to value forests’ and woodlands’ contributions to the SDGs; and the importance of acknowledging tradeoffs when setting priorities, including tradeoffs between upstream and downstream users, sectoral tradeoffs between land or water use for watershed conservation versus agriculture or tradeoffs between global and local public goods.

Key recommendations focus on: integrating forests with the broader sustainable development agenda; investing in the informal sector to unlock missed development opportunities and improve employment conditions; and engaging the private sector. The report further recommends: raising awareness among policymakers on the benefits of forests and trees, including through the evidence presented in the report; undertaking national and sub-national analytical studies; and improving data availability. In addition, the report underscores the importance of secure tenure rights for local communities and smallholders to access forests and trees, emphasizing that giving local people secure rights makes them more likely to take a sustainable, long-term approach to forest management and can also enhance gender equitable access to forests and trees. Finally, the report calls for sectoral ministries to take more integrated approaches to implementing and coordinating policies to realize sustainable development and achieve the SDGs, such as through SDG implementation platforms. [Publication: SOFO 2018] [FAO Press Release]

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